The Shrine has for its allegorical or symbolic background an order instituted by the Mohammedan Kalif Alee in 656 A.D. in Mecca, Arabia.The order was to further civilization and law and also to promote religious tolerance among the cultured men of all beliefs and nationalities.
In 1831, William J. Florence, a distinguished American actor returned from a trip to Europe where he had been inspired by the pageantry and oriental splendor of a private ceremony sponsored by the Arabian Consul in Marseilles, France.Walter M. Fleming, eminent physician, Civil War veteran, Thirty-third Degree Mason and Knight Templar contrived a ritual from notes and material submitted by the actor Florence.
On June 16, 1871, Fleming, Florence, and eleven Masonic friends, meeting at the Knickerbocker Cottage in New York City, endorsed a proposal for the formation of a new fraternal order to be composed of Knights Templar and Thirty-second Degree Scottish Rite Masons, based on Fleming’s ritual with its background of oriental glamour, pageantry, and mystic splendor.
On September 26, 1872, meeting in the Masonic Hall on East 23rd Street, the thirteen charter members held their first official session and formally organized “Mecca Temple” of the Ancient Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.Dr. Fleming was elected Illustrious Grand Potentate. The original ritual, prepared by him in his own handwriting, is now displayed in the Mystic Shrine Rooms of the Masonic National Memorial at Alexandria.
For a number of years noble Fleming, Potentate of Mecca Temple, considered the formation of a national body.On June 6, 1876, in New York, the Imperial Council of the Shrine of the United States was organized and the following day Damascus Temple of Rochester, New York became the second Shrine Temple.Mt. Sinai of Montpelier, Vermont soon followed.On November 16, 1876, Al Koran Temple of Cleveland, Ohio was organized and was chartered as the fourth temple in January, 1877.
By June 20, 1887, the Shrine had thirty-seven Temples, with a total membership of 4,398.On that date the title of “Imperial;” was adopted in lieu of “Grand” in designating the Shrine’s national officers and the title of Imperial Council of the United States of America was changed to Imperial Council of Northern America, following the chartering of the Ramses Temple, Toronto, as the first Canadian Temple.
The Shrine of North America has expanded to 191 temples with a total membership of over 600,000 Nobles in Canada, Mexico, Panama, every state in the Union and the District of Columbia.
Most Temples have four representatives to the Imperial Council plus the Imperial officers and emeriti members.This makes it the largest governing body in the world today.
Shriners work very hard to support “The World’s Largest Philanthropy”, our nineteen orthopedic hospitals and four burn units located throughout North America.Children under the age of 18 receive the best medical care possible, and it is all free.No child, parent, or guardian is ever charged for any treatment received in a Shrine Hospital regardless of race, creed, or relationship to a Shriner.
Biography of Kerak Shrine
Kerak is the renowned fortress city spoken of in the second book of kings, bearing the name Kir-Har-A-Seith; in the Isaiah under the names Kir-Moab, Kir-Har-E-Seth, and Kir-Ha-Resh; and in Jeremiah with the name Kir-He-Res.
Kerak is one of the most remarkable ruins in the world.It is emphatically a city on a hill, being situated on a towering rock at least one thousand feet above the surrounding valleys.It is at least four thousand three hundred ninety feet about the Dead Sea (The Salt Sea) at its base.It is enclosed by neighboring heights on all sides except the west side.
Kerak was rendered, by art, almost impregnable.There were two dark and crooked tunnels cut out of solid rock which were well fortified.The Citadel was an immense fortress, approximately one thousand feet long, five hundred feet wide, and eight to ten stories high.The Citadel was so isolated from the city, by a wide, deep fosse, that an enemy in possession of either post could not occupy the other.These fortifications are from three distinct periods.The most ancient are Jewish, the second are Roman and the third are from the Crusades.
It is here, in Kerak, that Raynold of Chatillon, then Lord of Kerak, felt so secure in his stronghold, that he defied the authority of Baldwin, King of Jerusalem; broke the treaty with Saladin, and by his rashness, brought on the fall of Jerusalem and the expulsion of the crusaders from Palestine.
The castle was built by Bybars, King of Egypt.The lower sections of the walls are twenty seven feet thick, case mated and flanked by two lofty towers (square towers) with loopholes – for use by archers.
Kerak is considered the grandest ruin in Moab and the greatest monument the Crusaders left of their energy and power.In the center are the remains of a large Christian Church with a vaulted ceiling, once frescoed.A secret gallery, cut through solid rock connected the Citadel with the castle.
The inhabitants of today’s Kerak are Mohammedans and Greek Christians, who call it “Kerek”.The Kerak Arabs are considered to be among the most treacherous and dangerous tribes east of Jordan as late as the early 1900’s.One who did not choose to pay backsheesh was in peril of death.